Brazil judge orders Vale to compensate families over dam burst

The January 25 collapse of the dam in Minas Gerais state, Brazil, killed hundreds of people and prompted multiple lawsuits against mining giant Vale (AFP Photo/Mauro Pimentel)

Brasília (AFP) - A Brazilian state judge on Thursday ordered mining giant Vale to pay nearly $3 million to the families of three victims of a tailings dam collapse that killed hundreds of people.

The ruling by Judge Rodrigo Heleno Chaves was the first successful individual claim against Vale over the January 25 disaster, one of the country's worst industrial accidents.

Decisions on other compensation claims against the company are still pending.

Chaves awarded the families of the three people killed in the disaster a total of 11.9 million reais ($2.8 million), according to the court in Minas Gerais, the state where the disaster happened.

The ruling comes after another state judge in July ordered Vale to pay for all the damages caused by the dam collapse, without quantifying the amount of money.

Vale has been struggling to deal with the aftermath of the dam breach that spewed millions of tons of mining waste across the countryside and forced the suspension of some of its operations.

The disaster was the second involving Vale in three years in the mineral-rich region.

Brazil has since banned the construction of new upstream dams, which are cheaper but less stable than other types of tailings dams, and ordered the decommissioning of existing ones.